Many Americans Still Have Limited Knowledge of Generic Drugs, New UnitedHealth Group Study Finds

Many Americans Still Have Limited Knowledge of Generic Drugs, New UnitedHealth Group Study Finds

Nearly One-Third Don't Know or Believe Generics Have Same Active Ingredients and Effectiveness as Brand-Name Drugs; Two-Thirds Don't Understand Cost Differences

71 Percent Remain Concerned About Drug Costs with One in Four Having Recently Delayed Filling, Not Filled, or Not Taken a Prescription as Instructed to Save Money

June 22, 2009 12:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time 

IRVINE, Calif.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--A new survey by Prescription Solutions, a leading pharmacy benefit management organization and a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) company, found that many Americans still have limited understanding when it comes to the cost, ingredients and effectiveness of generic drugs. The study also confirmed that the current economic crisis is affecting consumer prescription drug use.

"Biologic drugs can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year for a single person's treatment needs. A regulatory approval pathway for follow-on versions of these biologic drugs - or ‘biosimilars' - must be created by Congress in order for patients, the government and U.S. businesses to afford them"

The use of generic drugs has saved the health care system $734 billion over the past decade (IMS Health, 2009).

Jacqueline Kosecoff, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Prescription Solutions, said, "Using generics helps make health care more affordable without compromising results. Many Americans erroneously believe that the most expensive drug is always the most effective drug, so by helping to change perceptions, we can help people save money and still get the best treatment available."

Knowledge of generics still limited; Economy causing consumers to alter prescription drug use

Among the key findings of the Prescription Solutions survey:

  • Nearly one-third of Americans do not know or believe that generics have the same active ingredients and effectiveness as brand name drugs.
  • Two-thirds of those surveyed do not understand the true cost differences between brand name drugs and generics. Only 31 percent of survey respondents indicated they knew that a brand name drug cost 50-70 percent more on average than its generic counterpart.
  • 71 percent of consumers remain concerned about drug costs - with more than one in four (27 percent) having either delayed filling, not filled, or not taken as directed a prescription drug in order to save money. Further, 21 percent of all respondents say they have talked to their doctor recently about switching to a less expensive drug.
  • 57 percent of those polled said they take prescription drugs on a weekly basis. Of those who do so, 83 percent (or 47 percent of the total sample) take generics. Further, among those who take generics, 82 percent say they do so because of the lower cost.
  • Of those who do not take generic drugs on a weekly basis, 58 percent say it is because there is no generic available for the drug they need.
  • Doctors and pharmacists are key influencers in encouraging the use of generics. Of those surveyed who take generic drugs on a weekly basis, 64 percent say their doctor recommended generics and 43 percent say their pharmacist recommended them.
  • Of those who do not take generic drugs on a weekly basis, 58 percent say they would if their pharmacist brought a generic to their attention as a less expensive, identical substitute; and 52 percent say their doctor would have to recommend it.

Taken together, these survey findings demonstrate the need to further educate consumers about the differences between brand name and generic drugs and the potential value of generic drug use; and, doctors and pharmacists have a major role to play in this effort.

A Look Forward - The Next Cost Wave

As the nation looks at how to rein in health care costs without sacrificing quality, generic drugs are a proven resource. However, biologic drugs, also known as specialty drugs, are becoming the most costly and fastest-growing area of pharmaceuticals, expected to grow from a $40 billion market in 2005 to more than $90 billion estimated by the end of this year.

However, there currently are no "generic" alternatives for specialty drugs.

"Biologic drugs can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year for a single person's treatment needs. A regulatory approval pathway for follow-on versions of these biologic drugs - or ‘biosimilars' - must be created by Congress in order for patients, the government and U.S. businesses to afford them," Kosecoff said.

Prescription Solutions offers money-saving programs, rewards, advice for consumer generics use

Prescription Solutions has found that when consumers use generics regularly, it lowers the cost of insurance and helps keep premiums lower in the long run. In fact, according to company data, a one percent increase in generics utilization by consumers translates into 1.7 percent in total cost savings for payers like employers. Equally important, Prescription Solutions has found that, while results vary depending on the plan design, members enrolled in its prescription drug plans typically save $20 upward to over $60 per prescription when switching from a brand to a generic drug.

"At a time when rising costs are taking an increasing toll on many American families, especially during the economic crisis, Prescription Solutions is working to ensure consumers have access to lower-priced generic drugs," said Kosecoff.

The company offers innovative, money-saving programs to influence and reward the use of generic drugs among customers. For example, it partnered with clients and customers to help pioneer zero-dollar co-pays for generics ordered through its mail service for seniors in Medicare Part D plans. Among other programs, the company provides clinical education, including cost-saving tips and information on lower cost alternative medications for patients to discuss with their doctors and pharmacists.

Kosecoff offers these five tips to consumers when it comes to navigating prescription drugs:

1) Use Generics When Available, and Shop for the Best Price. Generic drugs on average are 50-70 percent less expensive than branded drugs, but prices can differ from pharmacy to pharmacy or from drug plan to drug plan.

2) Ask Your Doctor to Check Your Prescriptions. Have your doctor regularly review the full set of medications you are taking to be sure you still need them all and to determine if there are lower cost alternatives that would work as well.

3) Consider Mail Service. Using mail service is often less expensive and more convenient, and you have access to exactly the same medications available at retail pharmacies as well as 24/7 access to pharmacists.

4) Find Out if It Is to Your Advantage to Enroll in Medicare Part D, if Eligible and You Don't Already Have Coverage. Seniors and other Medicare-qualified individuals should join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, a.k.a. Part D plan, which can help qualified beneficiaries save money.

5) Explore Assistance Programs.

  • National and Community-based Charitable Programs (such as the National Patient Advocate Foundation or the National Organization for Rare Disorders) may have programs that can help you with drug costs. Information is available on the Benefits Checkup website. (www.benefitscheckup.org/)
  • Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs are offered by many of the major drug manufacturers, especially for seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Find out whether such a program is offered by the makers of the drugs you take by visiting the Pharmaceutical Assistance Program site on Medicare.gov.
  • State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs are offered in 21 states and one territory to help pay drug plan premiums and/or other drug costs. Find out if your State has a program by visiting the State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program site at Medicare.gov.
  • Apply for Extra Help. If you have Medicare and have limited income and resources, you may qualify for extra help paying your prescription drugs. If you qualify, you could pay between $1-$5 for each drug. Contact Social Security for more information by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.

Survey Methodology

The national telephone poll was conducted by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of Prescription Solutions from May 21-24, 2009. The national probability sample included 1,000 adults (500 men and 500 women), 18 years of age and older, and living in private households in the continental United States. The margin of error was +/- 2-3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

About Prescription Solutions

Prescription Solutions is an innovative pharmacy benefit management company managing the prescription drug benefit of commercial, Medicare and other governmental health plans, as well as those of employers and unions. A UnitedHealth Group company, Prescription Solutions serves over 11 million members through a national network of 64,000 community pharmacies and state-of-the-art mail service pharmacies in Carlsbad, California, and Overland Park, Kansas, which have both earned the prestigious Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesTM (VIPPS®) accreditation by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®). The company was recently ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Mail Order Pharmacies" in the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 National Pharmacy StudySM, as well as being named by WilsonRx® as the No. 1 National Top-Tier PBM, and No. 1 National Mail Order Pharmacy for customer satisfaction two years in a row. Prescription Solutions also won two Silver Awards for URAC's Best Practices for Consumer Empowerment and Protection Awards - Geriatric RxMonitor program (2008) and the Drug Interaction Alert Program (2009). Additional information can be found at www.prescriptionsolutions.com.

About UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to making health care work better. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through six operating businesses: UnitedHealthcare, Ovations, AmeriChoice, OptumHealth, Ingenix, and Prescription Solutions. Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves more than 70 million individuals nationwide.

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